Shari Thurow, founder and SEO Director of Omni Marketing Interactive is recognised as the leading expert on search engine friendly design and has authored three books about web design and usability. She speaks at events around the world, sharing her research and offering advice on how to optimise user experience on websites. Shari will be at the International Search Summit in Seattle on 9th June to present some findings on the variations in information scents between countries and here she answers a few questions about search and international usability.
If you could give just one tip to search marketers working on global campaigns, what would it be?
My one search marketing tip is actually a website usability tip: use your users’ language, and use it well.
British English is very different from (US ) American English and Australian English. Parisian French is very different from Canadian French. Spanish in Spain is different from Mexican and Argentinean Spanish. The grammar is different. The slang is different. Word nuances are different. It is so very important to use your users’ language.
You’ll be speaking about the scent of information at the International Search Summit – what exactly does that mean?
On a website the scent of information consists of textual and graphical cues that communicate:
(1) Where am I?
(2) Where can I go?
(3) How can I get there?
(4) Should i click on this link?
When the scent of information is strong and reinforces user mental models, people click. When the scent of information is diminished or lost, people leave your website.
And what is the impact of this on international websites – do scents differ between countries?
Absolutely! Words have different meanings in different languages. And colours have different meanings in different languages. Therefore, if words and images communicate different meanings in different countries, then the scent of information differs between countries.
During all of your research, what is the most interesting or surprising fact you have discovered about international usability?
Credibility is an important facet of user experience. I am continually surprised at how people in different countries determine a website’s, and a company’s, credibility. In the United States, there is a directness that is expected and acceptable. In other countries, that directness is unexpected and often perceived as rude, even though it is never our intention to be rude.
Therefore, placement of the About US, News and Testimonials and Case Studies on a site is different in different countries.
You are a regular at the International Search Summit – what value do you think the event offers delegates?
The International Search Summit is one of my favourite, must-see search marketing events. At other events, I often see too much emphasis on the technology behind search and not enough emphasis on the searchers. I always learn something new at the International Search Summit – usually something funny yet applicable to my roles as a web designer/developer, SEO, information architect and usability professional.
Shari, you’ve visited and researched a lot of countries and cultures…do you have a favourite?
My first love is Japan. I did not know that I was drawn to Japanese art, literature, aesthetics etc.. until I was much older but I love Japanese language and culture so much that I got my Masters Degree in Asian Studies/Japanese.
But I love France too! French was the first non-English language I studies and one of my closest friends is French. I am absolutely fascinated with the differences between US American websites and Parisian French websites.
I have a very soft spot for Germany. My Grandfather spoke German to me when I was growing up. so I cannot help but feel warm whenever I visit Germany. I laugh when US Americans want to expand to German markets but do not consider quality and credibility, which is so important to Germans (and me!).
But I will admit my favourite country is Iceland. Each country and culture has its own beauty and idiosyncrasies. But Iceland? An unsurpassed, unspoiled beauty in the land, culture and people. Then again, I am part Viking. Who knows – maybe a genetic connection?
Early Bird Tickets for the International Search Summit are available until April 30th.